Freedom's Just Another Word for 'No One Telling You What to Do'

Doug Mataconis points out that toppling Mubarak doesn't necessarily mean greater liberalisation:

First Tunisia, then Egypt, then Yemen, now the protests have reached Jordan:

(Reuters) - Islamists, leftists and trade unionists gathered in central Amman Friday for the latest protest to demand political change and wider freedoms.
A crowd of at least 3,000 chanted: "We want change."
Banners and chants showed a wider range of grievances than the high food prices that fueled earlier protests, and included demands for free elections, the dismissal of Prime Minister Samir Rifai's government and a representative parliament.

The protest after Friday prayers was organized by the Islamic Action Front, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood which is the only effective opposition and biggest party, but included members of leftist parties and trade unions.
Jordan's protests, as in several Arab countries, have been inspired by the uprising that overthrew the Tunisian president

"After Tunisia, Arab nations have found their way toward the path of political freedom and dignity," said Zaki Bani Rusheid, a leading Islamist politician.

Demonstrations have taken place across Jordan calling for reversal of free-market reforms which many blame for a widening gap between rich and poor.

It's worth re-reading the two sentences I highlighted above. Populist unrest against authoritarian regimes in the Middle East won't necessarily bring about a new birth of freedom, which is why the Bush Administration's obsession with democratization was just incredibly naive.

I think it's important to distinguish between political and economic freedom.  Toppling Arab dictators might well mean less economic freedom--at least some of the unrest clearly stems from unhappiness with economic liberalization. But there's also the tantalizing possibility that it will mean more political freedom, without which economic freedom ultimately withers and dies.  That's far from a guarantee--the Iranian regime managed to quite effectively purge or co-opt the democratic and liberal elements of the 1979 revolution.  But overall, an Egyptian government with stronger democratic institutions, and an illiberal system of crop subsidies, state ownership, and currency controls, would still be a giant win for freedom.  The Bush regime was naive to think that establishing a liberal order was as simple as removing the one that came before it, and I have an article in the next issue which makes exactly that point.  But they weren't naive to think that removing the autocrat is a necessary first step.